Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hello Central... Jelly Roll Morton, Bunk Johnson, Lionel Hampton, Earl Hines, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane...

Sometimes it is a good idea to be reminded of where it all came from...

So – to start somewhere near the (recorded) beginning, Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers playing 'Black Bottom Stomp,' 1926, a fast-paced track which contains a strong ragtime feel in places that displays where much of jazz originally came from, as well as the straight ahead swing of the newer music of the twenties. What is interesting about many of his classic sides is the amount of thought and preparation that went into the recordings – this is not archetypal New Orleans collective improvisation. By the mid-twenties Morton had already evolved a mature style of composition/arrangement – and can arguably be regarded as the first great jazz composer. Using his seven musicians in varying combinations from full ensemble to solo he creates a diverse and ever-swinging work within the time frame of the medium - 3 minutes 13 seconds – stop time breaks, a clarinet and banjo passage, a solo piano chorus in the middle, trumpet switching from open to muted horn. Textures and timbres and rhythms ever moving and a ride out chorus with drum back beat that stomps off to glory...

My second choice moves back and forward in time – Bunk Johnson was re-discovered in the late thirties and, although no doubt past his prime, in his sadly brief second flowering was able to recreate some of the sounds of the New Orleans collective style. In this recording he was paired with the formidable Sidney Bechet, a man whose mastery of clarinet and more importantly soprano saxophone crossed idiomatic barriers in the same way that Louis Armstrong, his great and overshadowing rival did. The splendidly titled 'Lord let me in the lifeboat' has an easy loping swing to it, trumpet strongly holding the theme as the trombone and clarinet weave round it in classic New Orleans style. Trombone takes a short chorus backed by Bechet. Then clarinet, sticking to the chalameau register, pretty laid back by Bechet standards of pyrotechnical bravura and timbral power – on soprano saxophone he had a vibrato as big as Texas. As if adhering to the New Orleans collective conventions – and aware that he could swamp Johnson easily if he tried.

These two recordings indicate to me the different strands of New Orleans jazz – one coming from the cabarets and clubs and dances, the other the marching band. One more precise and arranged, the other more collective and fluid within the harmonic confines of the day.

Let's jump... and consider the speed of change in jazz over the century or so of its existence as a roughly defined idiom. The New Orleans style rapidly declined in popularity as 'hot jazz' gave way to smooth swing – Morton's vision for small band was sidelined very quickly (unjustly?), Bunk Johnson, when these recordings were made, was essentially playing in a dead and gone style compared to the main thrust of jazz of the time – swing's endgame now and the coming hurricane of bebop. Earl Hines was in at the beginning – in the mid-twenties recording with Louis Armstrong some of the classic sides which emphasized the shift away from collective improvisation to improvising soloists. Hines, in fact, could arguably be regarded as the father of modern jazz piano (in keeping with his nickname 'Fatha'). Up to his death he was still playing in a timeless manner that easily walked through the generational shifts in jazz. (One can similarly imagine that Art Tatum, if he had lived longer, would have similarly had no problem in keeping up with jazz developments).

Lionel Hampton made his first recording in 1924 as a drummer but would come to prominence in the thirties with Benny Goodman and later his own roughhouse roaring bands – on vibes:

'In 1930, Hampton was called in to a recording session with [Louis] Armstrong, and during a break Hampton walked over to a vibraphone and started to play. He ended up playing the vibes on one song. The song became a hit; Hampton had introduced a new voice to jazz and he became "King of the Vibes." ' (From here... scroll down...)

So... here is a track from a late date – 1977 – pairing the two, on this track, Errol Garner's 'Misty.' The point here being that Morton died in obscurity, a neglected figure – as did that other New Orleans innovator King Oliver who had helped to bring Louis Armstrong to prominence in his sublime Creole Jazz Band – and then been left in the dust of Armstrong's brilliance. Hines and Hampton could and did hold their own in any company, young or old, due to their abilities (and inclinations) to move through the jazz mainstream as it rapidly broadened and evolved. No great questions asked or answered – just straightforward easy swinging jazz by two virtuosi.

Hampton recorded a jam session with an interesting group in the sixties. J. J. Johnson leads in the melody of 'Stardust' with Hampton's vibes ringing behind in chordal accompaniment. Lucky Thompson (an often overlooked player of some brilliance) solos on soprano – Clark Terry on muted trumpet. Elegant. Hawk fragmentary, poking at the notes. A flowing, rhapsodic solo from Lionel.

Whose theme tune was 'Flying Home.' Here's Hampton leading in his orchestra - riffing and roaring – then , soloing briefly before the arrival of a swaggering Illinois Jacquet and high brass rips at the end from trumpeter Ernie Royal. This recording only gives a small flavour of what the live performance must have been like... when this tune was stretched out and pummelled to hell and gone to orgasmic crowd reactions... Hampton was seen as slightly beyond the pale because of his populist instincts by certain more sedate critics:

'Hampton's extroverted showmanship, including dancing on his drums and attacking the piano with two fingers, mallet-style, has dismayed purists and critics, but his skill as a swinging improviser has never been in doubt.' (From the brief Downbeat biography here... )

To what it became... By the early sixties, things had changed... to end on, two tracks from that time. First: the Ornette Coleman Quartet playing W.R.U. Ed Blackwell on drums, (the New Orleans connection... ) and Scott La Faro on bass, Don Cherry on cornet. Ornette's music is often regarded on one level as a return to some of the principles of improvisation perceived as intrinsic to early jazz – certainly the polyphonic linear dance of lines in his electric band Prime Time especially have an echo of New Orleans style. However, his acoustic performances, while more in the conventional jazz area, are a light year away technically and conceptually from early jazz. Yet – they capture something of the fresh spirit of the music's foundations... 'W.R.U' is an archetypal twisting and turning Coleman composition, sounding rather like a refracted bebop line, especially in the accurate unison of trumpet and alto. Cherry takes the first solo, a little tentative in places as Blackwell prods him continually, but he holds the course. La Faro not always at ease in this company sounds somewhat detached. Coleman solos, a wailing wonderful performance, accompanied superbly (as ever) by Blackwell who takes a brief but telling solo followed by La Faro with sure-fingered speedy rippling panache.

As mentioned above, Lionel Hampton's popularity as a live act often sat ill with jazz critics of the more purist strain who somehow missed the point of his orchestra's wonderfully reckless dancing-on-the-drums showman swerves into backbeat extravaganzas (proto-rock and roll?). Oddly, something of that horn honking excitement surfaces in the sixties new wave – especially with John Coltrane's searching workouts where he blows holes in the tunes to extend the acoustic space they inhabit. Here is Coltrane at Newport in 1963 – Elvin Jones had dropped out 'for personal reasons' as the euphemism went in those days, so Roy Haynes was on drums (Jones' frequent dep). Haynes was and is a master – on 'Impressions' the piano and bass fall quickly away to leave the drummer with Coltrane at full protean stretch. An interesting contrast between him and Jones – Dave Gitlin said of this concert

'What I remember: Roy Haynes played more like Elvin, less like Roy because of audience expectation? or a sense of competition? ' (From here...)

Maybe it's the mike placing on this live recording – Haynes is active and plays well but a level below the shattering power of Jones. Plenty of snap and crackle, nevertheless (Haynes' nickname is 'Snap Crackle'). Coltrane in 1963 was still playing within the accepted timbres of modern jazz saxophone - but stretching the boundaries of perceived performative length although this version of 'Impressions' clocks in at just under 16 minutes. Given the date and this band, one is almost tempted to add 'mere' to the duration. Yet – a caveat – jazz as a recorded medium had been dependent on the technology available – starting off with 78's, this meant about three minutes per side. When the long player arrived in the fifties, there was much more space available – but still restricted to the two sides of a record. Cds of course offer more time. But the medium has given a false impression maybe of what jazz performance can entail – how long should someone solo – how long is a piece of improvisational string? There are stories of legendary jam sessions that went on for hours, after all. Public performances were also not dictated by time factors to the same extent, beyond the set-length in clubs and dance halls and later concert halls. And – remember Duke at Newport the year that Paul Gonsalves took a bag full of choruses on 'Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue' and blew the place up - sixteen choruses of full-tilt blues tenor, if I remember. So Coltrane was carrying on in that tradition here... Whatever, as the kids say... Coltrane could always build up a head of steam – and always had a large audience, despite his rapid artistic development, which left others gasping in incomprehension and occasional downright hostility in his stormy wake. Something about his playing hit home to many people... the spiritual quest manifesting through technical exploration... That mixture of the sacred and profane which is one of the dynamics of jazz and Afro-American music in general? It's almost as if at times Coltrane was taking the music back to something more primal, beyond the traditional dualism... a place where sacred and profane are just words describing the same feelings?

Hallelujah... oh play that thing...

In the videodrome...

Lionel Hampton and Patti Page here...
and Hamp with big band plus Betty Carter here...

and here... with the original Benny Goodman Quartet reformed...
plus a short clip of Roy Haynes...

Jelly Roll Morton
(Ferdinand 'Jelly Roll' Morton (p), Honore Dutrey (tr), (Omer Simeon (cl), George Mitchell (t), Johny St Cyr (banjo) John Lindsay (b) Andrew Hilaire(dr) ).

Black Bottom Stomp


Bunk Johnson
Bunk Johnson (t), Sandy Williams (tr), Sidney Bechet (cl), Cliff Jackson (p) George “Pops” Foster (b), Manzie Johnson (dr).
Lord let me in the lifeboat


Earl Hines/Lionel Hampton
(Earl Hines (p), Lionel Hampton (vib), Milt Hinton (b), Grady Tate (d) ).



Lionel Hampton
Thad Jones, Clark Terry (tp), J.J. Johnson (tb,; Lucky Thompson (ss), Coleman Hawkins (ts), Hank Jones (p), Arvell Shaw (b), Osie Johnson (d), Lionel Hampton (vib).



Lionel Hampton
(Lionel Hampton (vib) and orchestra featuring Illinois Jaquet (ts)

Flying Home


Ornette Coleman


John Coltrane Quartet
(John Coltrane (ts), McCoy Tyner (p), Jimmy Garrison (b), Roy Haynes (d) ).



Thursday, August 24, 2006

More Europe... then over the sea... Ornette Coleman, John Zorn and Masada...

Ornette Coleman went to Scandinavia in 1965 and recorded the two volume set 'Live at the Golden Circle.' I bought this when I was living in London in the late 60's - and it still cuts – fresh and questing music from one of his most satisfactory lineups – with David Izenzon on bass and Charles Moffett on drums. 'Dee Dee' is a jaunty bounce, bass walking sturdily over the swish of Moffet's cymbals as Ornette stretches out into his own inimitable space. This trio could go anywhere, speed rolls and clipped cymbals accenting the gambolling sax. There is a lightness to this music, floating almost serenely in the free areas created by nerve and technique – and mutual close listening. And, hey – it swings. The strange thing is, given the reported historical pronouncements and antagonisms, I could imagine Miles Davis sitting in here... Izenzon steps up for a bass solo, out of the walking gait into a fascinating dazzle of technique, backed by the admirable Moffet – who then takes his own solo. I remember, being of a certain age, the squawks of jazz critics down the years re drum solos... '...public like them, old boy, but not for the true aficionado.' Well... I like drum solos, especially when you have a master at the traps... Ornette returns...Moffett building quite a head of steam, cutting sonically across the bass in parts. Return of melody. A quirky bugger that reminds me of a sea shanty or something, a folksy tinge to it...

With my usual elliptical swerving, an arc back to the New York concert in 1962, (when Ornette rented Town Hall – and broke even, I believe). The trio with Izenzon and Moffett had debuted that night – but I want to select the string quartet piece that was played, Ornette's composition 'Dedication to poets and writers.' An attempted double hit to connect to the wider 'orthodox' artistic world? John Litweiler quotes Coleman as saying:

'I realised that my image was... this illiterate guy who just plays, so I started writing classical music.' (P. 104, Ornette Coleman- A Harmolodic Life, John Litweiler).

A fascinating piece, crisscrossing lines that edge in and out of 'dissonance' – and that resolve almost unexpectedly on a consonant chord. (Litweiler suggests this was a joke...). Ornette's writing seems self-assured, a lengthy interrogation that uses the strings to advantage and doesn't sound (to my ears) contrived, expanding his strong melodic sense into the classical idiom.

Then back to Europe... Ornette recorded live at the Tivoli, 1965. This is 'Falling Star,' which leads on slickly(?) from the string quartet as it features the leader on (shock, horror) violin. And (even more shock, horror) trumpet. 'Shock, horror' according to many critics, who dissed his work on his subiduary instruments down the years. Both of which I saw/heard him play at the Barbican concert last year and thought that they fitted immaculately into what he was doing. He evolved the technique he needed – away from his fluency on the saxophone, nevertheless the playing environment he creates allows him to move easily through and spell out what he hears and feels unable to release on his saxophone. A man with a wide sonic palette as composer and player, after all... Coming straight in on violin with a sawing, hoedown feel until savage smears take it out further, scurrying figures and rips and snaps. Izenzon is majestic – following him up and down the registers then taking his own brief solo, his specialty searing arco working out before Ornette returns. The sonorities nearer classical, the feel – jazz. Izenzon solos again – pizzicato now, more fragmented at first with ringing harmonics before some speedy picking. Ornette rolls back in, ripping out more strong bowing as Moffett then comes upfront, a thoughtful solo with Ornette faint in the background, slightly off-mike(?). Speeding into more flowing pattering rhythms. Ensemble, then violin drop-out with fast bass pizzicato coming through as a bridge until Ornette returns on trumpet. A strangled thin sound, but seemingly agile enough as needs be. Supported all the way by bass and drums through the various tempo changes, Moffet rolling and spattering cross-rhythms with a graceful facility. I have remarked before how this music breathes so easily, stretching out to a wide horizon of freedom. 'Falling Star' is a paradigm for this expanded territory. The violin returns, finally ending the piece on double stops.

A tenuous link – maybe... Greg Cohen has been playing with Ornette in his latest group(s) – the two bass and now three bass lineups sandwiched by the alto player and Denardo... he also was an integral part of Masada, the band John Zorn band founded to explore his Jewish roots. I saw Zorn last year in New York but he was playing very much of a supporting role to the headliner at his club that week, Misha Mengelberg, so didn't stretch out much. Apart from that, he's a musician whose presence and influence I am aware of but have never really engaged with. In fact, I've just bought a couple of his cds – spotted cheap - but haven't got around to listening to them in depth. But now........ Over on Mr Lucky's rather splendid blog Orang aural, he has pucks of Zorn, as the Irish say (among lots of good stuff)... I had a quick download of the Masada band out of curiosity – and it blew me away. Reminding me of Zorn's debt to Ornette, but also demonstrating the vital manner in which he has expanded on that legacy by his embrace of his cultural heritage... This takes 'jazz' to new levels... and moves in seemingly contradictory ways - going back to changes and composed themes but out to wherever is dictated by the moment and the musicians' speed of thought and emotional inclination. When crusty old Wynton rambles on about jazz being dead from whatever arbitrary date in the late sixties he is pointing to this week (apart from himself of course) – I wonder: music like this – and so many other vital contemporary musicians' work – within the broad church of 'jazz' (that unstable, loaded word...) breathes new life into old traditions. It ain't dead yet... Ornette, for example, is still finding fresh sounds and spaces for his imagination to flow into... Coming from the Coleman direction in many ways (with a touch of the classic Gerry Mulligan quartet in the collective improvising of the alto and trumpet), Zorn/Masada is a new revelation to me... jumping, writhing, soulful, intelligent music. The interaction between Dave Douglas and the leader reminds me of Ornette and Don Cherry – it's that good... Douglas I know of – a fluent and powerfully graceful player, he seems to have the assimilated knowledge of what has gone before that is arguably essential to all contemporary players – but has stepped beyond by internalising it, expanding from it and using it gracefully – not in a forced way. Backed by Greg Cohen on bass and Joey Baron on drums (who is another welcome discovery), they comprise one of the best bands I've heard in a long time. A classic quartet - screw analysis anyway – some music just hits you... this is one such track...

Wikipedia glosses the word 'Lilin':

'According to The Alphabet of Ben-Sira, the lilin or lilim (singular lili) are the daughters of Lilith and Samael, engendered while Lilith was still Adam's wife. They are demons, with their function being similar to that of a succubus. While men feared them for this reason, mothers feared the attack of the lilin because they were also said to kidnap children, as Lilith herself did.
Upon deserting Adam and turning against God, Lilith was warned that one hundred of her demonic children would die daily if she did not return to God. She refused, and so it is said that one hundred lilin die daily.'

Far out... as we used to say...

'Lilin' is from a live set recorded at the Tonic in 2001, entering on a springy 6/8 rhythm that is redolent of folk dance. Strong drumming over the insistent bass vamp - then the horns state the theme. Baron is on fire, surging behind the front line to join them as an equal partner. Alto and trumpet engage collectively – one of the trade marks of this line up, lines crossing and re-crossing as cymbals smash to drive them onwards. Zorn's keening alto emerges to solo, closely tracked by the drummer. Douglas essays the occasional obbligato, rejoining for a chaotic restatement of the theme followed by more collective cranking up. Ebbing away to allow Baron to thrust forward into the ring. Clanging cymbals interrupted by abrupt thumps and tough-wristed rolls out of the Blakey bag. The bass vamp continues throughout. The horns murmur quietly on re-entry. Zorn and Douglas spar with each other, the tension mounting again – Baron pounding them along – high alto squeals and whoops from the crowd – they drop back then engage in a double time cross-rhythmic spurt. Cohen like a rock, holding it all together as the mayhem rises - and then falls into the theme. Crowd - collective wahoo. Superb. A sure-footed demonstration of dynamics and building tension/release... I will be posting more from Masada...

In the Videodrome today...

...the Peter Brötzmann trio with William Parker and Hamid Drake – elegaic almost...for a while – Brötzmann on alto...

The rather wonderful Chris Corsano with Paul Flaherty and C Spencer Yeh... Yeh!

Some of brother Zorn's Masada...

Ornette Coleman
(Ornette Coleman(as), David Izenzon(b), Charles Moffett(d)

Dee Dee


Ornette Coleman
(Selwart Clark — violin; Nathan Goldstein — violin; Julian Barber — viola; Kermit Moore — cello).

Dedication to poets and writers


Ornette Coleman
(Ornette Coleman(as,tp,vln), David Izenzon(b), Charles Moffett(d) )

Falling Star


John Zorn
(John Zorn: alto saxophone; Dave Douglas: trumpet; Greg Cohen: bass; Joey Baron: drums).



Wednesday, August 23, 2006

In Europe 1966... more Student Studies with Cecil Taylor...

...More from 'Student Studies' 1966... Moving backwards from yesterday... the first track, 'Student Studies Part 1.' Opens on a quacking repeated single note from Lyons over arco bass. Piano answers with a dark rolling figure and bass and drums follow. Several brief, discrete sections, starting and stopping. An odd, abrupt momentum. Then - a long duet with Taylor and Cyrille as equal partners sonically. In contrast to 'Amplitude,' Taylor plays more upfront piano here. Dense, exhausting, exciting... rewarding. If you can follow the vision, you will receive much back... Cyrille goes with him all the way, whiplash reflex drums and cymbals matching the keyboard multiple trajectories. Falling to a bass run and Lyons quacking that note over and over to link the sections as Silva bows deeply and the piano hammers out deep and trenchant notes. Lyons poking at notes as Silva comes up through the register, the piano ominously scuttling in the bass and middle register. A slow seesawing quartet... Lyons sputtering sax as the piano and bass weave richly around him – a delirious vertigo. Piano featured more on this track, Lyons saxophone is more colour and integrated into the quartet sections – no featured solo as such.

Cecil Taylor
(Cecil Taylor: piano; Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone; Alan Silva: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums).
Student Studies Part 1


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Europe 3... exiles and renegades...Cecil Taylor... Student Studies...

'In 1966 Cecil was hard pressed for an audience, particularly in America. There were few performances that year, and only three official recordings made—though two of those records have become among the most famous in his wide discography.' (From James Beaudreau's review ).

The third? 'Student Studies,' a live recording in France with Jimmy Lyons, Alan Silva and Andrew Cyrille, from which I have selected 'Amplitude.' An introductory repeated and slightly amended piano ripple, cymbal cutting like a knife, woodblock (?), gongs, more sharply reverberating cymbals and pattering small percussion. Then – Silva's bass, loud and booming – in the review that the above quote comes from, James Beaudreau makes the point that I have repeated with regard to many of my blog downloads from the 60's – that the bass is often mixed too far back. Here Silva is right in your face. Lyons enters, high and plaintive, some long low notes, fragments of alto. An unusual recording, the trajectory features a much more dislocated line. Taylor is not his usual surging storming presence – echoing cavernous tumbling drums and the booming bass dominate as the piano and sax scurry in their shadow and across the edges. There are calmer, still points when the music ebbs slowly downwards – yet these are often disrupted by a shrill whistle. Silva uses bowed bass to good effect in a duet with Cyrille, unsettling glissandos over resonating drums and a high clip clop figure (woodblock again?). Lyons returns with a repeated high note and a tentative dying fall, answered by shrill whistle – like an angry traffic cop – as Taylor gets inside the piano to produce deep ringings from the strings. Lyons utters a few short flourishes. Taylor is almost pointillistic in places, spilling out small flurries of notes... when the piano is featured at length, the 'inside' playing is a blur of overtones, the keyboard often just a low thrumming which gives quite a trippy dubby sound, almost as if Lee Perry had been lurking somewhere near the mixing desk. Everything is slightly and interestingly askew here... the piano not so prominent, played as a 'prepared' instrument, a dash of détournement (well, they were in France...), Lyons intermittent, playing much less than usual, the bass and drums/percussion all over the track, dominating the textures and colourations. The use of recurring small motifs and patterns (such as the tick tocking woodblock, the whistle) give a binding flavour to the performance which conceals its length of nearly twenty minutes. It doesn't drag.... A superb and sharp piece to place alongside those two Blue Note studio sides from '66 - that offers hints of several roads that were not be travelled subsequently...

Cecil Taylor
(Cecil Taylor: piano; Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone; Alan Silva: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums).

(I've been having problems with uploads so here's a choice...password for yousendit is: freejazz. If this doesn't work - try Ezshare...)


Friday, August 18, 2006

Flipping your wig to the Hair Police... Freenoise in Sheffield Saturday 12th August 2006...

The Cricketers is a beat up venue in Sheffield, short on décor, long on warm welcome (and cheap drinks!). The upstairs room – archetypal scruffy – essence of avant-muso - with an open door leading onto a platform and fire escape that provided some air into the cigarette stuffiness. Equipment everywhere, crammed into the space as people wander about, greeting and chatting. Obviously a crowd that knows each other – Freenoise must have worked hard to build this up.

The first act – 'Feast of Ishtar.' Easter pronounced by a drunk? Actually, not so semantically far away... there is a holy link -I googled 'Ishtar' and got this:

'Ishtar was worshipped via offerings of produce and money as well as though fornication with temple prostitutes.'

War in a Babylon or something...

'We have a similar report from Gerhard Herm in his book, The Phoenicians, where women in the Canaanite cities of Tyre, Sidon and Byblos were required to become prostitutes for a day and give themselves to foreign guests during the spring festival. This festival survives today in the name of "Easter", which is derived from the word "Ishtar".

Passing swiftly on...

... tonight - the Leeds incarnation of 'Feast of Ishtar' - a duo of wild man with a guitar and a quiet guy sat with the electronics and a mike that he would yell into occasionally – the sound no doubt processed into the wider crashing riot of noise. Non-stop movement from the guitarist– as if he was plugged into the mains electric, continual dervishing dances, flailing at the guitar, which was gloriously abused and at one great point whipped with the guy's belt into submitting even more howls of feedbacking blitz. Different to your usual improv gig – a sense of humour on display for a start – I found this very funny - and also a great opener. Climaxing with shoes being kicked off into the void. After the applause -a plaintive cry: 'Has anybody seen my shoe?' (You had to be there...) Brilliant...

Kreepa vs Black Galaxy – laptop, table guitar, electronics and – trombone/tromboscillator. ('The 'tromboscillator' is a trombone extended through electronic hardware, software and amplification...'). A strange line up with the inclusion of the latter – but it worked very well, the lonely roll of the trombone, mournful and plaintive, muted and straight, playing off the searing electronic landscape hammered out by the other three. A crowd was building by now, wandering around informally, as if walking through the music, blurring the boundaries between performance and audience – which is a common occurrence these days at these gigs. Democracy in action... K vs BG are loud but not oppressively so (which they could be in such a small space) – but a degree of volume is necessary to provide the areas for the music to flow into. Space is needed for freedom – and freedom demands space. The set builds well, various rhythms criss-crossing, at one point sounding like motors revving up. The sonorities of the trombone provide an oblique jazz reference (even filtered through processing) – yet the rough electronic soundscape takes this somewhere else entirely– a jazzer wandering alone through an alien land of action electronics, giving an interesting tension. A long surging section washing over like waves on a beach as disjointed voices mutter in the mix (radio? Samples?). Coming to intermittent blats of noise and taken us out on tribal drums. Very impressed - almost stole the night...

Solo. (Didn't get the name – so guess: Putrefier? My apologies...). A table full of electronics – an avant garde jumble sale. ('50p for that old Boss pedal, guv'nor?'). Ratcheting rhythms, machinic, harsh white sounds cut by purer electronic tones scraped free of granularity. Rhythms – but always mutating. What is music? It's what we collectively (or individually) decide it is. The rhythms hold the performance in place for the listener as the noise (free) crashes over it. Teasing – has he stopped? A sound like scratching around on the table miked up. Dropping the rhythm back. A powerful set... as if the conventional basics of drum machine rhythms had been turned inside out, had acid thrown on them and then been thrown across the room... A very good contrast to the other preceding acts...

And then – the Hair Police. Evening all... can I inspect your barnet? Spinning off the wild and wooly Wolf Eyes via their worthy constituent Mike Connelly. A see-sawing intro – invoking vertigo. High squawking voice – pass the helium, buddy... Again an interesting mixture and contrast between acoustic and electric – guitar and coarsened death metal vocals and electronic manipulations rail across the drum rhythms. A storm rolling and rising from a tonal base buried deep down under the scraw. Babbling squabbling guitar. Going into freejazz rhythms – plus rock power and noise. Equals? FREENOISE? The audience surely digging this. Headbanging for the new millenium. Contorted vocal. Is this voicing RAGE? Or just TEXTURE? Taking the trappings of IDIOM outwards over new boundaries. Deep bass booming. At one point – I thought I heard: SEAGULLS(?) ... There are distinct rhythms rather than a free pulse. The drums hold it all together. They did an encore... Tumbling drums and scrooching noise. Rock. ROCK!

Freenoise is alive and well and living in Sheffield – in both senses of that phrase...

How to describe Hair Police? Examine the iconic status of the instruments – guitar is rock/metal, electronics – industrial/improv/noise – drums – freejazz-ish. Tying it all together. Rock body slams into free wailing in the celestial electric moshpit of the provincial night. All is well. This is what music should be... Anthony Braxton has recently been playing with Wolf Eyes...(See here... a freebie mp3 available...).Maybe he's doing a Miles Davis-meets-electriciy for the new century – think of the fusions possible... Running the new voodoo down...

Collectively? A great night, a complex and continually fascinating snapshot of one section of our music NOW – from raw comedy to serious shit without too many seams showing. (A susurrating flourish...)

Interesting things are happening outside of London on the M1 ley line.

Hip huzzahs to Freenoise for making it possible. And the guy behind the bar for being so hospitable....

I'll come again. Soon... In the meantime – if you get the chance, check all of these people out – go see if they cruise round your environs – or buy some product...

My fellow blogger Molly Bloom attended and her take on the fandango is here...


Filthy Turd
Feast of Ishtar
Black Galaxy/Nick Bullen

A wack of Hair Police and related stuff... more...

The Videodrome...

Through the voodoo of Youtube – Hair Police

I couldn't find any Kreepa vs Black Galaxy but this came up...
take serious drugs and watch...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Meanwhile back in Europe 2... Derek Bailey... Evan Parker... Han Bennink.., Paul Bley... Barre Phillips...

The first release on the Incus label was recorded in 1970 by Evan Parker, Han Bennink and Derek Bailey. Track one: 'Titan Moon.' Hard scrabbling. Bangs and crashes from Bennink. Cymbals like dustbin lids. Parker rawly granular and Bailey administering scratching scraping guitar, not too far away from Sonny Sharrock's sound. Although this is a noisy squawling rattling bugger, the jazz influence is still there – it's the techniques involved, the reflexive speed of thought– far too diagonal and polyrhythmic for rock, say. Surging pulses and lightning strikes across the drums to move the music relentlessly forwards... Parker matching Bailey in harsh texture, power and speed... At times the saxophonist seems a little back in the mix – but he manages to cut through with hard blowing. Parker a man, after all, who more than held his own with Cecil Taylor in years to come... A couple of duo sections – Bailey and Parker, briefly, then later Bennink and Bailey. This was an important document of transition, out of print for many years and only re-issued since the death of Bailey. The musicians' styles are still in flux – but stamped already with individuality and indications of what was to come. Three future leaders...

The Canadian Paul Bley has, famously, been around. He has played with a range of musicians across the music and been a radical force since he first encountered Ornette Coleman on the West Coast in the fifties. Another improviser with a restless streak, still fired by curiosity after these many years in the business. Parker and the bass player Barre Phillips recorded with him for the first time in 1995. The first track on the album is 'Poetic Justice.' Piano, saxophone and bass tread carefully around each other, beginning the dance. This is, ironically, more jazz-textured than the Incus track with Bailey and Bennink, even though that was recorded at a time when they were all closer to their musical influences. Thoughtful, almost bluesy, as motifs are tossed across, caught and thrown onwards. Parker adheres more closely than usual to the orthodox idiomatic resonances of the tenor... Bley is tinkling treble runs, a bass rumble, sporadic chords... sparse, spartan playing of great rigour. Underpinned by the majestic bass of Phillips. Parker briefly drops out for a section of bass and piano. Returning, there is now a restless, forward motion – three longer lines now running in counterpoint. A fresh section – suddenly more abstract – inside piano rattles, scraggling arco bass and Parker almost slap-tonguing, popping out spats of notes. More textural than melodic development now, that hints back to those early Incus days before running to the end and the final long-decaying notes into silence... future and past inverted...

In the Videodrome today...'s a short clip of Derek Bailey and John Stevens ...
and Bailey with Min Tanaka in Japan

... and a short clip of Han Bennink which gives a flavour of his unique style of performance...

and another...

Evan Parker/Derek Bailey/Han Bennink
Titan Moon (Edited)

Buy (Scroll down)

Evan Parker/Paul Bley/Barre Phillips
Poetic Justice


Monday, August 14, 2006

Meanwhile back in Europe... Derek Bailey/Dave Holland... Evan Parker...

A couple of tracks from the UK improvisation brigade – Evan Parker with his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble and Derek Bailey playing with Dave Holland. Both these sessions represent the wide reach and interest of the main constituents – who have played in a bewildering array of ensembles and adhoc groupings down the years (while in Parker's case keeping keeping up old alliances such as his ongoing work with the Alexander Von Schlippenbach Trio ). Bailey of course sadly died at Christmas. Parker is still going strong, quietly refining and honing his steely brilliance. Bailey revolutionised the guitar and the ripples of that influence stretch far and wide across many idioms. Parker took giant steps beyond his original master, John Coltrane, to become one of the most original saxophonists in the world.

Bailey and Holland had originally played together in John Steven's Spontaneous Improvisation Ensemble back in the late 60's - alongside Evan Parker. Historical note: Tony Oxley, Parker and Bailey founded Incus records, which was and is a prime source for UK improvised music:

'Tony Oxley had the original idea, Michael Walters put up the money and Derek Bailey and Evan Parker were recruited as co-directors. Since then, Walters, Oxley and Parker have, at different times, left.'

This live recording of 'Improvised Piece iv' dates from 1971. Holland on cello draws out rich dark brown sounds and Bailey responds in pointillistic fashion at first, gradually coming more into the conversation as Holland goes higher, stringing out those jumpy, kinked, staggering lines from his guitar (hint of Monk somewhere way back?). Ebb and flow – the tidal movement of free improvisation – fading to silence and returning with high ethereal bowed notes, becoming more scratchy as the guitar plays popping phrases. The cello moves to pizzicato in an echo of the guitar (and more conventional jazz bass?) Very physical music in the sense of the foregrounding of the bowing, plucking and plectrum on the strings... the cello gives a classical flavour of idiom – Bailey's electric guitar something else – coming from jazz (via his interest in Webern) but not jazz – combining to build on the new sonic areas spinning off the back of the 60's that were distinctly European...

I stumbled across this link to the recording of the recent John Zorn tribute to Derek B at the Barbican – which I intended to go to – but my erratic health screwed up my being able to attend, unfortunately. I heard the playback on the Radio 3 website and it was damn good...


'In 1992 [Evan Parker formed] the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble to explore more fully the potential of live electronics in improvisation, a potential that has grown as the technology has become more sophisticated.'

This is Parker at a distance from the usual hurley burley of scratch and skronk. The acoustic instruments - horn and strings – are involved in conversations with electronic processing by the musicians and Walter Prati and Marco Vecchi, the programmers. A fascinating, slow and meditative organic journey... in a movement similar to the previous track, the cultural resonance of the strings (=classical/serious) gives a sense of modern chamber music – the occasional faint high flutters of soprano sax add just a slight tinge of jazz filtered through twenty years of the post -coltrane avant-garde. Yet this improvised music is not jazz - possessing no beats/rhythms or acoustic inflections which would usually be associated with the broad stream of that music. Although Parker has a very long reach and returns to more jazz-orientated improvising when the spirit moves him. (As we shall no doubt see in future posts...). A true original...

Evan Parker
(Evan Parker (soprano saxophone, gong); Phillip Wachsmann (violin, viola, electronics, sound processing); Barry Guy (acoustic bass); Paul Lytton (percussion, programming); Walter Prati, Marco Vecchi (programming).


Derek Bailey/Dave Holland
Improvised Piece iv

Buy – out of print ECM album which - to my knowledge - has not yet been re-released on cd – a few copies out there if you trawl the Internet...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Eric Dolphy... Michael White... Herbie Mann... Gene Ammons... Maria Schneider...

Goddogo mentioned this Eric Dolphy track in the comments section of the last post... I was originally going to put it up with the other Lasha/Simmons material but couldn't find it. Dug it out finally in the wee small hours...

'Music Matador' was recorded by Eric Dolphy in 1963, about the same time of the 'Iron Man' session which also had Prince Lasha and Sonny Simmons in the ensemble. It has a crazy lilt to it – coming over a bass vamp, the horns skirl out the calypso-like melody. At first you would wonder that this was a Dolphy cut – then the inimitable bass clarinet comes in. Simmons solos on angular alto sax over cymbals and Davis's insistent bass. Ensemble - then Lasha taking a flute solo that shows him to conventional advantage. The high horn range space is further explored by Clifford Davis on soprano sax. Dolphy on bass clarinet, makes his usual diagonal entrance. A vocal performance, high querulous honking interruptions and some glorious dissonances. Davis takes a solo, more of an extension of his role throughout this track which pivots on his variations on the simple chord pattern – harbinger for his later sessions with Van Morrison on 'Astral Weeks.'. Unusually for a lot of the recent recordings that I have featured from the sixties, the bass is prominent throughout rather than muddied in the mix and the drums here are often just ticking in the background. The title – expect Spanish tinge – get Caribbean swing... go figure as they say... The tune is credited to Lasha but Simmons says he wrote it – given that he apparently hung around with Sonny Rollins, the calypso connection makes sense... An unusual front-line blend of alto sax, flute and soprano sax playing off the weaving bass clarinet - that epitomises many of the explorations of the sixties with these adventurous timbral combinations. A final amusing thought:

"Music Matador" is what the theme to "The Jungle Book" movie would sound like interpreted on acid. (From a review here... scroll down...). Turn on, tune in...

Lasha played on a few sessions as sideman – here's an obscurity by the jazz violinist Michael White from 1971. White made his bones in free jazz but came to prominence with the John Handy band before going off to embrace his own version of jazz-fusion. This is a three part suite – 'Land of spirit and light.' Presented as more of a curiosity – but White's take on the genre has a certain charm – nice bouncy summer sounds. Chopping trebly rhythm guitar over fast latin-y drums – Santana anyone? Long violin notes slowly building. Bass and guitar criss cross to announce the second section before White returns. Followed by a guitar solo over chattering percussion, dying slightly before pattering congas/bongos are joined by piano. Lasha at last joins the fray over insistent drums, his flute more colouration that solo in the usual jazz sense, joined by White, the violin becoming more aggressive, edging the flute back. Background voices join in. A flavour of Sergio Mendes... The flute takes it out and dies over the rhythm fade out. A curio – I will try to get hold of some better examples of Lasha... White is another who fell by the wayside – but has had some resurgence in recent times.

Something about this track reminds me obliquely of Herbie Mann – specifically the 'Memphis Underground' album - when I used to live in Dublin in the seventies I frequented a bar called the 'Old Crescent' at the bottom of Mary Street – run by a Kerryman who had spent many years in New York before he came back to buy a pub in Dublin. A teetotal landlord – which was bizarre enough in the drink-drowned culture of the owld place and a guy who liked music and musicians – lots of great sessions at the 'Crescent.' Oddly enough he wasn't the biggest fan of Irish traditional sounds – referred to as 'Immigration music,' scathingly. In the lounge bar upstairs was an 8 track cartridge player with apparently only one album – 'Memphis Underground' which was consequently played a lot – I feel that it seeped into me through osmosis helped along with mucho Guinness backed by Black Bushmills and red lemonade. Liam was one of the great landlords, a good friend – here's one for him... Critics were often very snitty about Herbie Mann – but anyone who hired Sonny Sharrock – who contributes some wild wahoo guitar on this album – is o.k. by me... Here, Mann states the theme over a greasy back beat from the Memphis boys. Mann comes off the strong r and b rhythm in a rolling solo. Coryell comes in for his rock hero section. Ayers' vibes add a tonal spice, in a ringing, building couple of choruses, technically the 'jazziest' solo here. Then – wham! Sharrock tips the whole thing over into another dimension of cranked up distortion and off-kilter strumming. This was the bit I always waited for, back in the Old Crescent lounge... akin to suddenly and gloriously disappearing down some cosmic worm-hole. The band spiritedly try to catch up and match the fireworks... I wonder what Sam and Dave made of it all...

Let's spin back away from the edges to the solid raw heart of the tradition – not such a distance... Sonny Simmons name-checked Gene Ammons as an influence so here's some Jug – I bought this album when I was about 14-15 and the version of 'Willow weep for me,' recorded at the Black Orchid Lounge, Chicago in 1961, still stands out in my memory. (The name of the venue gives off a wonderful smoky jazz/nightclub ambiance...) Ammons gave a blues edge to everything (the son of Albert Ammons, the two fisted boogie piano stomper from the thirties, it must have been embedded in his DNA): he turns 'Willow' into an impassioned and testifyingly vulnerable lament. Holmes comes in like an icy stream trickling past the bending trees – whatever organ stops he is using rhyme perfectly with the theme and mood. Gene Edwards' guitar is bluesy and boppily fluent. Ammons restates the theme and plays an unaccompanied coda that teases out the tune to audience laughter. This live recording gives a timeless reminder of what jazz can be, beyond genre and idiomatic borders, when it cuts through straight to the heart...

Ammons cut his teeth on tenor duels. Here is a live track from the evening session of an all day recording in 1970, again from Chicago – but at the more prosaic North Star Hotel - featuring Dexter Gordon, a running mate from the old Herman Herd way back. A re-run of 'The Chase,' the tandem wild blowout between Wardell Grey and Dexter. Here they blast holes in the acoustic spaces, wild surging tenor with the bebop flash and speed yoked to the emotional power of the blues – honking heaven...

The penultimate track - looping back in time, Ammons in 1958 – playing 'It might as well be spring' (looking at the weather with the hint of autumn on the rain earlier and the looming winter I wish it was already...). Dark brown misty tenor ballad wizardry – with a slight touch of Ben Webster's whooshy timbre. Tough and tender... Another oddity – John Coltrane on alto... thoughtful and almost hesitant at first, as if the smaller horn was more delicate to handle than his usual tenor - until he starts to dig in... the melody always somewhere in view... Mal Waldron pithy and epigrammatic...

To end a scattered and rambling post (hey – I improvise as well...) going out with Maria Schneider... checking the comments I saw Molly Bloom asking who were my favourite female jazz musicians. Cue for a post – so here's a taster. 'Hang gliding' comes from the album 'Allegresse' and I think it is awesome. Schneider was a Gil Evans protege and it shows in these deep and mellow voicings spliced to unusual timbres emanating from the adventurous instrumentation and spiced with astringent harmonies. An evocation of the sport she was introduced to in South America, the off-kilter 11/4 captures the erratic rise and fall of the wind and the swooping emtional rush of fear and exhiliration. I am not a great devotee of big bands as a rule – but it seems that Schneider is not either - '"I don't even like big bands these days. I'm not hearing big band voices anymore. I try to put together a musical idea and then see how I can express that." (From the article here...). As the interviewer says - 'She has developed an individual style that in some ways is defined by her ensemble using the name "orchestra" rather than "big band."'Schneider references Charles Ives in this piece, which, allied to the influences via mentor Gil, puts her in a consciously wider frame of American musical reference. She uses a broad palette and has been criticised for not writing strong melodies and for being an Evans clone – each to their own, as they say, but I think she has forged a unique body of work, re-invigorated a half-dead format (orchestra or big band, it's still a large group of musicians to score for). Her congregation has also been accused of more or less not being famous musicians, consequently that their solos are not that strong. I think she writes for her musicians and that they give back what is needed to the overall sound - and are plenty strong... A lot going on and music that needs, perhaps, repeated listening. I hear plenty of melody, her own take on the Evans legacy and beyond and an up to date infusion of new life into the old game... there is a steely determination at play here,crossed with a strong emotional power that gives her music sinew, intelligence and ... beauty...

Coda – if you missed it in the comments section, Goddogo points to this fascinating conversation with Prince Lasha – still going strong...

Eric Dolphy
Eric Dolphy (bass clarinet); Clifford Jordan (soprano saxophone); Sonny Simmons (alto saxophone); Woody Shaw (trumpet); Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone); Richard Davis (bass); Charles Moffett(drums); (J.C Heard is sometimes given as drummer on this – I've taken this line up from the Dolphy discography here...
Music Matador


Michael White
Michael White (violin); Stanley Nash, Kenny Jenkins (vocals); Bob King (classical guitar); Prince Lasha (flute, alto flute, piccolo, clarinet); Ed Kelly (piano); Cecil McBee (bass instrument); Kenneth Nash (percussion)

The land of spirit and light, parts 1-3


Herbie Mann
Herbie Mann (flute); Roy Ayers (vibraphone, congas); Bobby Wood (acoustic & electric piano); Bobby Emmons (organ); Larry Coryell, Sonny Sharrock, Reggie Young (guitar); Tommy Cogbill, Mike Leech, Miroslav Vitous (Fender bass); Gene Christman (drums)

Hold on I'm coming


Gene Ammons
Gene Ammons (ts) Richard Holmes (org) Gene Edwards (g) Leroy Henderson (d)

Willow weep for me


Gene Ammons/Dexter Gordon
(Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon (ts) Jodie Christian (p) Rufus Reid (b) Wilbur Campbell (d) ).

The Chase


Gene Ammons
John Coltrane (as) Gene Ammons (ts) Mal Waldron (p) George Joyner (b) Art Taylor (d)

It might as well be spring


Maria Schneider
(The Orchestra: Maria Schneider; composer & conductor: Tim Ries; saxes, clarinet & flutes: Charles Pillow; saxes, clarinet, flute, piccolo, oboe & English horn: Rich Perry; tenor sax & flute: Rick Margitza; saxes & flute: Scott Robinson; saxes, clarinets & flutes: Tony Kadleck; trumpet, piccolo trumpet & flugelhorn: Greg Gisbert; trumpet & flugelhorn: Laurie Frink; trumpet & flugelhorn: Ingrid Jensen; trumpet & flugelhorn: Dave Ballou; trumpet & flugelhorn: Keith O� Quinn; trombone: Rock Ciccarone; trombone: Larry Farrell; trombone: George Flynn; bass trombone & tuba: Ben Monder; guitars: Frank Kimbrough; piano: Tony Scherr; basses: Tim Horner; drums: Jeff Ballard; percussion).



Monday, August 07, 2006

Lest we forget... Prince Lasha... Sonny Simmons... Franke Lowe...

When you are looking for inspiration – surf the net. Over on Orgy in Rhythm I noticed an album by Elvin Jones-Jimmy Garrison (scroll down a way) – with a frontline that consisted of Prince Lasha, Sonny Simmons and Charles Davis. I remembered Prince Lasha (and Simmons to a lesser extent) but haven't listened to his music for years - So: a quick net search brought up this interview. There is a brief interview with Sonny Simmons here as well
and a longer one here

Re: Lasha – here is a more extensive interview that also details his relationship to Sonny Simmons - they both seemed to take similar trajectories in and out of obscurity. (More here on a site devoted to Simmons). Lasha famously went to school with Ornette in their mutual birth place, Fort Worth (Lasha a few months older) and played together early on. Yet he travelled a different road... As did Simmons, originally from Louisiana but who beached on the West Coast – which was the forcing ground for all of them before the necessary treks to New York... and back...

Two tracks from 'The Cry' recorded in 1962 – The first is a boppy blues, 'Red's Mood.' Lasha plays flute with a trilling fluency. Simmons comes in to solo – sounding a little Ornettish, although basically issuing a couple of straight blues choruses. Followed by a bouncing bass duet over the steady almost bebop cymbals of Stone - leading into a brief drum solo which holds up his traps credentials. Nothing very 'out' here – yet the lack of piano and the two bass lineup provides a flowing space that hints at further potential freedoms.

'Lost Generation' is a showcase for Simmons and starts with him playing unaccompanied – a powerful emotional tone and fluent soaring lines, he stretches out a lot more here. An unusual start to a track... The band come in after a couple of minutes – bass thumps, drums and cymbals as Simmons skates over them. An earthy, bluesy quality to his playing that is also a feature of Lasha's music – and Ornette's of course. Stone plays some busy cymbals...

Because I have hardly any Lasha to hand – here's a track by Sonny Simmons, leading his own group on 'Intergalactic Travellers' in 1966. Slashing straight into a fast, squally solo after the theme – you can again hear that bit of Ornette in his playing but the slurring vocalisations he utilises take him somewhere else. A brief unison statement – then Barbara Donald comes out with a fiery, bouncing trumpet solo.One of the pleasures involved in excavating buried or partly forgotten music is in (re)discovering not just the headliners but the other participants. Barbara Donald fits into this post too well as – unfortunately - yet another musician with more of an underground reputation. A woman, a free jazz trumpet player – and white at a time of rising black nationalism and a certain amount of resulting scene schism. This is an edited track unfortunately (taken from an old Wire ESP compilation) and fades out after 4.45 mins – but gives a further flavour of Simmons – and his wife of the time. (They separated in 1980). Simmons, although having had a chequered life as a musician and some hard times, has been on the up these last few years, luckily – playing round the West Coast, his band is also in Europe very soon, I notice – appearing in Paris at the end of September. Prince Lasha, similarly, is happily back in the game...

Frank Lowe
is another sax player who came through the West Coast free jazz scene – tutored by Donald Raphael Garrett and Sonny Simmons in San Francisco, he encountered Ornette Coleman - who advised him to head for New York. A career of sojourns with Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane followed by sporadic recording and too much underacclaim was unfortunately to follow - until he disappeared from music to resurface triumphantly in the nineties – only to die tragically from lung cancer in 2003. Supposedly under the shadows of Coltrane and Ayler, in the often grid-like manner of some critical delineation, nevertheless throughout his career Lowe forged his own distinctive voice, playing out of the traditions of both mainstream and free – in this interview, for example, he identifies Gene Ammons as a strong influence...

'I heard Gene Ammons solo ... and I was flattened. It destroyed me, totally destroyed me and I was no more good. I was a tenor saxophone freak, probably before then, but that certified it. '

'Brother Joseph' is a solo performance featuring Lowe on tenor, taken from his debut (for ESP) in 1973. A simple tune that he slowly rotates and comes at from fractionally different timbral angles – from straight tone to gravelly vocalised blurs and pointillistic phrases and upper-register squeals back again to a plaintive purity... This track stands in contrast to the wilder blowing on the rest of this album, yet moves with the same freedoms...

'Duo Exchange part 2' is also from a session recorded in 1973. It starts with ringing cymbals and fluttering Japanese flute from Lowe. Ali sets up a bumping rhythm while clusters of small bells rattle. As the flute continues the drummer switches to brushes, lightly stroking. One of those tracks that breathe easily, offering space for the two musicians to combine (minimal) melody and timbres – some of which remind me in places of Tony Oxley's customised kit. Ali returns to the bumping rhythm as voices mutter and burble and various ironmongery is struck. Flute and lowing voice, a brief percussionary chatter – and finish. This track offers the most radical and free music in this selection – a relaxed creativity, where two musicians create and explore a temporary soundscape, loosely held together by the simple flute lines and recurring rhythms...

Other themes unite these musicians. They developed their individual sounds and techniques throughout careers that, although containing long periods of obscurity and neglect, came through in the end – with the sad exception of Wright whose death brought his resurgence to a tragic halt. They were all linked to the West Coast – and Ornette Coleman, by varying degrees. Which is perhaps worthy of future exploration. And, lastly, they all demonstrated the ability to play both outside and inside the tradition, in the process enlarging that often disputed area of jazz that lays between. Maybe this mutual breadth of vision contributed to giving them the strength for the long haul...

Prince Lasha Quintet
(Prince Lasha : flute. Sonny Simmons : alto sax. Gary Peacock, Mark Proctor : bass. Gene Stone ; drums. )
Red's Mood

Lost Generation


Sonny Simmons : alto sax. Barbara Donald : trumpet. John Hicks : piano. Teddy Smith : bass. Marvin Patillo : drums.
Interplanetary Travellers


Frank Lowe
Brother Joseph


Frank Lowe/Rashied Ali
(Japanese fl,perc; Rashied Ali-d,perc).

Duo Exchange Part 2


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wayne Shorter part two...

More Wayne Shorter. 'Mahjong,' another of his 'exotic' titles, is from the 'Juju' album recorded with the big three from Coltrane's band of the time – Tyner, Workman and Jones. The Coltrane influence hangs heavy over this set (as mentioned in my earlier post) – not surprisingly, given the band's make up and Shorter's links to the tenor player. Yet - a fascinating record. 'Mahjong' is again one of those cunningly crafted pieces – 8 bars of minor seventh vamp, followed by another 8 where the chord drops a major third to a major seventh that restates the minor tonality. A 4 bar bridge modulates briefly away before returning to the home tonality for the last 8 bars. The 4 bar section is the typical Shorter touch, a transition from the predominantly modal feel of the composition – and unusual in being asymmetric by halving the 8 bar bridge that would have been expected.
Ushered in by Elvin Jones before Tyner drops into a minor vamp closely followed by Shorter stating the theme – a 4 bar phrase and 4 bar rest repeated across the two 8 bar sections, broken by the brief bridge and repeated again. Simple – but effective. Tyner takes a brief, pithy solo before Shorter comes in. Expansive, stretched notes, echoing the space that the theme contains. This is where you can mark his difference from Coltrane, who would have undoubtedly plugged in more holes. He goes straight back into the theme and repeats it then solos some more up to a fade – giving the performance a slightly different structure to the usual theme plus solo theme and out. A track that breathes a lot – it's seven minutes forty three seconds but seems spread out, without that much going on – more about group playing, perhaps, and a sculptured trajectory.

Tony Williams recorded the album 'Spring' in 1965 and invited the tenors Sam Rivers and Wayne Shorter to be his front line. ''Extras' swirls in with the saxophones criss-crossing before going into a solo underpinned by Peacock's fast, fluent walking and counter-punching and deft cymbal work. (Herbie Hancock, the pianist on the rest of the date, drops out on this track). Some rapid fire tenor here, hassling at phrases. Peacock darkly deep thrums as the cymbals patter like rain at the end winding down the tempo to a stroll as the second tenor (Rivers, I think) enters, vocalised flutters and speedy runs as the tempo picks up again. Drops again and the tenor is left alone to blow fast strings of notes before the band come back, saxes moving in counterpoint to slowly die on a shuffling few bars from Williams that comes to a drum beat dead stop. Recorded a year after 'Juju', this is a freer track: Williams' composition is more diffuse than the sharper focus of Shorter, but an interesting session with the Davis band members (Rivers was to play sporadically with Miles but never quite fitted the template) given a looser rein than usual away from their imperious leader. Peacock, who had been playing with Albert Ayler, very much holds his own, especially in his solos, and brings in a breath of the wilder winds blowing in the freejazz arenas. Compare his playing here to that of Reggie Workman on 'Mahjong' and elsewhere on 'Juju.' Although with no piano on this track, Peacock has to step up – and Tyner's thunderous left hand blocks a lot of bass frequencies perhaps (as on many Coltrane tracks). Yet throughout this album, Peacock is exceptionally good and makes his present heard – Workman is more felt, perhaps...
Both the tenors make good use of the space, the older Rivers coming from similar improvisational areas as Shorter and possessing something of the same angularity and oblique sense of structure (Rivers is, of course, a mighty - yet underrated - composer as well).

Wayne Shorter
(Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone); McCoy Tyner (piano); Reggie Workman (bass); Elvin Jones (drums).



Tony Williams
(Tony Williams (drums); Sam Rivers, Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophones); Herbie Hancock (piano); Gary Peacock (bass) ).



Matthew Shipp... the freedom to be asinine...

Sometimes you have to say something... I didn't want this blog to get involved in political issues as it is predominantly about music but I found this last night on JBSpins blog and it incensed me...

'The September Jazz Times is currently hitting mailboxes with a feature marking the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attack on lower Manhattan, soliciting responses from a diverse group of musicians. Most, like Sonny Rollins, Bob Belden, Joanne Brackeen, and Fred Hersch largely confined their reflections to personal stories. Matthew Shipp however, took the opportunity to make some vile statements, excusing the unprovoked attack that killed almost 3,000 of his fellow New Yorkers. As Shipp sneers:

“With the type of cold-blooded capitalism that is practiced in western uncivilization [Shipp's italic], terrorism is an inescapable consequence. This country cannot be involved in wholesale corporate imperialism like it is and not expect some type of blowback.”

Part of JBSpins reply is as follows:

'The terrorist attacks of 9-11 had a devastating impact on New York's economy, which as a result had deep repercussions on music scene. Gigs dried up, and venues closed. Most importantly, almost 3,000 individuals were brutally murdered. Make no mistake, there is no place for a jazz musician in the world of Islamic Fascism. Neither is there room for anyone who does not subscribe to their extremist Islamic beliefs. Everyone who contributed to [these] 9-11 reflections has a stake in the fight we face, whether they want to acknowledge it, or not'.

Read the complete article here. Shipp, of course, has the freedom to make asinine statements, which is one of our great and collective strengths despite all the acknowledged - and debated - imperfections of our countries - I don't see him getting too many gigs in downtown Teheran... A great deal of the music I love is difficult, awkward, contradictory and cranky stuff, like many of the musicians who play it and it reflects and often criticises the societies and cultures that produce it – but the main unifying theme throughout is freedom and the joy that stems from that freedom – something that I know in my bones the Islamofascists have no conception of and would stamp out and murder given half a chance in the simplistic one dimensional world they are trying to impose on everyone. The most profound art, for me, is concerned with exploration, difference and complexity... long may it flourish...

This excellent blog also skewers Charlie Haden's long-term apologistic sucking up to that old tyrant Castro – still writing songs to Chairman Mao, Charlie?

Rant over... back to the music...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Newark Flash... Wayne Shorter...

The Newark Flash... Wayne Shorter...

“A week before I went into the Army I went to the Cafe Bohemia to hear music, I said, for the last time in my life. I was standing at the bar having a cognac and I had my draft notice in my back pocket. That’s when I met Max Roach. He said, 'You’re the kid from Newark, huh? You’re The Flash.' And he asked me to sit in.”

In 1964 Shorter left Art Blakey and joined Miles Davis. His arranging and writing for the Jazz Messengers had played a major contribution in lifting that incarnation of Blakey's ongoing jazz school into the realms of legendary. He would go on in his new band to further hone his playing skills – and similarly contribute a large amount of material that would help to define one of the great Davis line-ups. He also recorded a string of classic albums under his own name for Blue Note during this period....

... one of which was 'Juju.' My first selection is the title track, a quartet performance with three members of the classic Coltrane band: McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman and Elvin Jones. A good example of Shorter's compositional strategies – simple tune over chordal vamp that goes into a section with more complicated harmony. The initial chord vamp is based on an augmented seventh, just to spice things up, with the implications of whole tone scales. Although this album is noticeably under the influence of Coltrane, whom he admired greatly, (and maybe the presence of Coltrane's sidemen bent him further in the direction of the master?)his compositional splicing of modal strategies with more unconventional harmonies indicates his own original direction, one that would flirt with freer forms but would have at least one foot back in the more conventional jazz structures. Where Coltrane evolved rapidly away from conventional harmony through open-ended modality to finally going boldly beyond the beyond, Shorter's use of albeit unusual harmonies in tandem with the wider spaces of modality ensures more formal constraint and ensemble unity. A more structured freedom...

'Juju' opens on brief piano over a swinging ¾ before Shorter states the theme. Tyner takes the first solo, expansive and assured, powered along by Jones. Shorter enters, sounding, as already mentioned, very Coltraneish with a thick, well hewn tone that becomes more hoarsely searching towards the end. Although he uses more space than would be found in Coltrane's restless, unrelenting turbulence, different angles of attack... Jones again delivers a master class in prodding, driving accompaniment and in his short solo, skewering slivers of cymbals cutting through the deeper tonalities of his drums. Ending after the reprised theme on a pounding repeated chord vamp with flurries of tenor... Given the strong Coltrane influences here, it is interesting to mark the divergences that demonstrate Shorter's individual stamp on form and improvisation.

'Chief Crazy Horse' is from a 1966 date, again introduced by piano, a loping vamp. Another deceptively simple Shorter theme that has hidden harmonic depths. A relatively short questing solo by the tenor, followed by a pummelling two-fisted Hancock solo that builds into a dense block-chorded passage before a right hand shimmering run lightly splashes treble light back into the palette. Followed by some rippling solo drums from Chambers. Theme restated and another vamp-out, Shorter almost quizzical here to the fade. The pivot between this and the previous track is Workman, ensuring a kind of continuity between the Coltrane and Davis camps – Miles represented here by Hancock, with the drummer the odd man out. Plotting all these trajectories of influence is a fascinating game... as is noting what finally came out on top – and what disappeared - to be stumbled over years later... as on the last selection, taken from a relatively obscure album recorded in psychedelic '69...

Shorter was and is, of course, one of the main players in the game – during his tenure with Miles he performed on 'In a Silent Way' and 'Bitches Brew' and very soon after the latter sessions were finished recorded 'Super Nova' which can be seen as an almost immediate reaction to some of the questions being posed by Miles with regard to electricity and rock/funk influences ... Julian Cope has an interesting and typically idiosyncratic review of the album here... Interestingly, other have dissed it mightily... Shorter of course became a big wheel in fusion when he co-founded Weather Report with that other Davis alumni Joe Zawinul – who wrote 'In a Silent Way' – and also took on board the bass player and percussionist on this session, Vitous and Airto Moreira. 'Super Nova,' however, indicates some other directions that might have been taken...

Track chosen: 'More than Human.' Introduced by bass, suddenly disrupted by scraping guitars, rattling percussion - an interpellation of pure noise - and Shorter enters on snake-charmer soprano, building quickly into rapid spinning lines – this is almost like free jazz meets proto-fusion, pulse rather than steady rhythm, although the bass carries the stop start vamp in and out of the rackety ensemble. Shorter returns and chopping guitar becomes more prominent, jittering fast strummed chords. This is much more free than 'Bitches Brew' with its long tidal vamps... To my ears I hear a link to the seventies loft-jazz scene, where the impulse of free jazz was often combined with electronic instruments and their rhythmic and timbral implications... Strangely, there is little obvious McLaughlin here – just rather muted chopped rhythm guitars - and the strumming figures sound very like Sharrock. Corea is also billed as drummer(and vibist on other tracks) rather than on piano – a textural ensemble rather than conventional back drop for Shorter to fly the soprano across. Meandering, yet sounding less dated than one would of the lost highways of psycho-electric jazz that had larger implications of freedom way beyond the rigidities and ring-fencing of the territory that orthodox jazz-fusion accomplished...

Here's a video of Wayne Shorter with the Miles Davis band in 1969...

and with Weather Report

and back in 1959 with the

Jazz Messengers

Wayne Shorter
(Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone); McCoy Tyner (piano); Reggie Workman (bass); Elvin Jones (drums).



Wayne Shorter
(Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone); Herbie Hancock (piano); Reggie Workman (bass); Joe Chambers (drums).

Chief Crazy Horse


Wayne Shorter
(Wayne Shorter (soprano saxophone); John McLaughlin, Sonny Sharrock (electric guitars); Miroslav Vitous (bass); Chick Corea (drums, vibes); Jack DeJohnette (drums) Airto Moreira (percussion).

More than Human